Tom McNamara, former United States Attorney and Federal Public Defender of the Eastern District of North Carolina, passed away on July 23, 2023, just shy of his 85th birthday.
Tom was born in Oceanside, New York, on September 14, 1938, to the late Clara Henggeler McNamara and Thomas Michael McNamara.
He grew up in Port Jefferson, a village on Long Island, New York, where he worked at his father’s car business, McNamara Buick, before attending boarding school at Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University in 1961 and his Juris Doctor from Wake Forest University in 1964.
Tom’s 50-year career in law began in 1965 at Raleigh’s Maupin Taylor & Ellis, where he was hired as an associate after passing the bar.
Tom served as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina from 1972-1976, which involved him in many historic high-profile cases. He served as Assistant United States Attorney prior to his appointment from 1969-1972.
Tom spent the next 25 years in private practice concentrating on the defense of federal criminal cases.
In 2000, Tom was appointed Federal Public Defender for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which he considered his favorite part of his career, until he retired in 2017. He was the second person in US history to have held both positions of US Attorney and Federal Public Defender.
In 1992, Tom was inducted into the prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine in honor of his public service in North Carolina. During this time, he served as the Commissioner of North Carolina Administrative Rules Commission and as a member of the Governor’s Crime Commission.
In 2017, Tom was the first ever recipient of the Judge David Daniel Award by the Federal Bar Association for his exemplary service to the Eastern District of North Carolina. Tom was also named The News & Observer’s Tar Heel of the Week two times during his career.
Tom was also a member of the North Carolina State Bar, Wake County Bar Association, North Carolina Bar Association, North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Out of the courtroom, Tom was the most dedicated and supportive father and husband. He spent many years coaching his children’s sports teams, attending school events, traveling to games, and doing everything in his power to set them up for success in life. Tom valued his role as “Papa” to his grandchildren just as much as he did being a father. He was an incredible role model and mentor.
Tom enjoyed family trips to Bald Head Island and Beech Mountain, NC, where he spent much of his time hiking, reading and seeing friends with June at their second home. In his younger days, he enjoyed running on the track team at Duke, showing horses, watching Duke basketball, and playing tennis at North Hills Club and Raleigh Racquet Club. His family will also cherish the friends and memories they made during their many years of living on McDonald Lane in Raleigh.
Tom was dedicated, patient, kind, and incredibly supportive to his friends and family. He will be missed by everyone who knew him.
His memory will be carried on by his wife of 44 years, June G. McNamara; daughter Meghan McNamara Rosenthal (Brian); son Kevin McNamara (Nan); daughter Kelley Shepherd (Frank); grandchildren Blake and Lila Rosenthal; Elizabeth and Samuel Mason; and Abby and Jackson McNamara. He is also survived by brothers Tim McNamara (Caroline), Jim McNamara, and Kevin McNamara (Susan); brother-in-law Duane Goins; many nieces and nephews; and his puppy, Pippa.
Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Clara and Thomas McNamara, daughter Amy McCluney Mason, sister-in-law Sharon Goins Lynn, and brother John McNamara.
A service of Witness to the Resurrection will be held on Thursday, August 3, 2023, at 3:00 pm at White Memorial Presbyterian Church, 1704 Oberlin Road, Raleigh, NC 27608.
Services provided by Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, 300 Saint Mary’s St. Raleigh, NC.
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